As a dog owner you probably understand that life with your furriest family member comes with its fair share of surprises. One of the biggest may be discovering that your dog is carrying a litter of puppies. And you may be wondering how to tell if your dog is pregnant, what are the signs? It’s not always easy to tell if your dog is pregnant, so let’s review how to diagnose a canine pregnancy and help your dog through the process.
How to Avoid Dog Pregnancy
Here at the CCSPCA we strongly recommend that all dogs be spayed or neutered because it’s a surefire way to avoid an unexpected litter of puppies. It’s also better for your dog’s health and typically improves the temperament of aggressive or otherwise unruly canines. However, your dog may not be spayed yet and there are several ways to help prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Keeping your dog under close supervision is crucial when she comes into heat. This period of fertility may last up to 3 weeks and during this time she will undoubtedly be attracting the attention of any males in close proximity. If you live in an area where your dog is allowed to roam, be sure to keep her in the house during this time, only taking her out for walks on a leash to keep her under your control.
You may find that her heat period is quite messy so a dog diaper can be used both to keep the inside of your home clean and as a deterrent against male dogs during your time outdoors. Just be sure to remove it often to let her urinate and defecate.
If you need to spay your pet, we have many affordable options available. View our pricing and spay and neuter services.
How to Tell if Your Dog is Pregnant
Learning how to tell if your dog is pregnant is similar to learning to tell if a human is pregnant, as they share many of the same symptoms.
- Your dog may have her own version of morning sickness. She may feel queasy and vomit regularly in the early stages of her pregnancy. Some of this is normal, but if it continues you should discuss it with your vet to rule out any complications.
- About a month after mating, she may produce a slight mucous discharge from her vagina. Discuss any bleeding with your vet.
- By day 30 or so, both the color and size of her teats may be more prominent. They may also begin the produce a clearish fluid.
- She will begin to put on a bit of a belly as she gains her baby weight around day 40. Some first-time moms and those with smaller litters may not gain much, making it harder still to identify her pregnancy. Most dogs ends up weighing about 50% more than normal.
- Her appetite will change, usually increasing. Be prepared to up her food intake in order to help her body through the process. Some dogs become quiet and actually have a decrease in appetite. This is often a completely normal response to the pregnancy yet it may indicate a problem, so contact your vet if you have any concerns.
How Can You Know for Sure?
You can’t exactly run out to the drugstore to pick up a home pregnancy test for your dog. If you suspect she is pregnant, you should visit your veterinarian. After around day 21 they will be able to run a hormone test to give you a definitive answer. Your vet may prefer to do an ultrasound after day 20 or so in order to allow them to see the puppies growing inside of her.
How Long are Dogs Pregnant?
Typically the gestation period of a dog is between 60-65 days. Because dog pregnancies are so much shorter than that of humans, she may be well into her term before you are even aware of it. It’s a good idea to get to know the signs of a pregnant female so you can prepare for the changes a litter of puppies will introduce into your life.
What to Do When it’s Time to Deliver
Your dog is built to handle this on her own. Her instincts will guide her through the process from start to finish but there are ways you can make things easier on her. After all, she’s part of the family.
Simply being present will allow you to soothe her along the way. Gentle petting before the puppies begin to arrive and soothing words will help her feel more at ease. It will also allow for you to step in should any complications arise. If you notice her straining without producing any pups or see a discolored discharge, you should contact your vet immediately.
She will naturally look for a quiet, warm, and comfortable place to give birth. You can help her by making a cozy nest for her with old blankets and towels and by keeping the activity in your home to a minimum during her labor.
Some people like to build a whelping box in order to keep the puppies safe and contained during birth and early life. Your dog may also feel more secure if she is able to seclude herself in such a box.
What to Do with Newborn Puppies?
There is a lot to know about raising puppies. Fortunately nature has programmed your dog with that information and she will instinctively do most of the hard work without you having to lift a finger. Your job is to oversee the whole operation and step in if you notice a problem. You may need to break a puppy out of its amniotic sack or prevent your dog from crushing or suffocating them during and after labor.
After the labor is over be sure to change the bedding where your dog and her puppies will live regularly and keep her well fed and hydrated. You may need to help a runt or two to feed as the litter will typically have a few food hogs that push the smaller pups out of the way.
Finding the Puppies a Home
In a matter of weeks you’ll have a bunch of the cutest little house guests tearing around your ankles and you’ll be thinking about what to do with them all. You may want to keep one but you’ll likely need to adopt them out to a loving home with a responsible caretaker: one who agrees to regular vaccinations and to spay/neuter the puppy as soon as it reaches the recommended age.
Be sure to visit our vaccination clinic to send them off with their first sets of shots. For times, pricing, and appointments, review the information on our vaccination clinic page.
How to tell if your dog is pregnant can be tricky to distinguish. If you have the slightest inclination that your dog might be pregnant, make sure you make an appointment with your vet.